Buursma buoys Bucknell
past Navy for Patriot League title
By Phil Stanton
(photo courtesy of Bucknell media relations
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – If Reggie Jackson is Mr.
October, Jason Buursma may become known as Mr. May.
For the second consecutive game, Buursma earned
the victory on the mound and scored the game-winning run in the
ninth as fourth-seeded Bucknell nipped second-seeded Navy 8-7 at
sun-splashed Max Bishop Stadium to sweep the Patriot League
“I’ve always been fortunate to be able to play
both ways,” Buursma said, “and I get the chance to be out there
and I got lucky to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Under the previous Patriot League postseason
system, these two teams would not have been in the championship
series. Last season, only the top three teams made postseason
play, with #2 and #3 playing in a one-game playoff and the
winner facing the top seed in a best-of-three series, all played
over a two-day period. Bucknell would not have made the
postseason field, and #3 Holy Cross beat Navy in their first
semifinal series game last weekend. This year, the top two seeds
hosted a best-of three semifinal series last weekend, with a
best-of-three Championship series this weekend.
“I think it’s a great format,” said Bucknell head
coach Gene Depew. “It certainly was to our advantage for this
year. I think it’s a good format in that the competition
especially this year in the Patriot League was so tight that
anybody within it could come out of the tournament and I think
it’s great to be able to involve the four teams.”
Buursma (9-3) earned the wins in each of the four
postseason victories for the Bison (26-22-2), including both
semifinal wins last weekend at top-seeded Army. Buursma pitched
a perfect top of the ninth with one strikeout to keep the score
“I’ve never had two weekends like these past
two.” Buursma said. “I’ve never really won a big championship in
my life and this has just been unbelievable. Everyone’s been
playing their heart out and just been having so much fun.”
Buursma hit the first pitch of the bottom of the
ninth to left off reliever Mark McCoy (6-5) for a single and
moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Pieper.
“I was just looking for something up,” Buursma
said. “I was sitting back. I knew he was going to throw me
something offspeed. He used a couple of fastballs in that other
at bat. I knew I was going to see something offspeed and I saw
it up. When you see something up, it looks good.”
J.D. Melton replaced McCoy on the mound. After a
lineout to short, Shawn Hirsch, who was 3 for 3 with 3 RBI, was
“I think that’s the first one of my career,”
Hirsch said of his intentional walk. “Coming out of nowhere I
didn’t even know what to do. But I had one of my best boys
hitting behind me and he made me proud. He did a great job with
that single down the line.”
Ed Rubbo sent a 1-0 into right, bringing home
Buursma with the championship run.
“When you step into that batter’s box,” Rubbo
said, “it’s like being into a classroom. You learn what pitches
he’s going to throw to you, the movement of the ball. My first
at bat, which was yesterday against that same exact closer, it
ended in a strikeout. But I learn from at bats and learn what
pitches he was going to throw. So stepping in there today
against that same closer, I had more confidence and knew, kind
of predicted what he was going to throw. He started off with the
same pitch he struck me out on yesterday, which was the inside
slider, and I saw it low. The way he comes with his motion, you
have to take the approach where you’re going to drop it in right
field. When I saw fastball, I was thinking right field with it
and that’s where it ended up.”
The Midshipmen (32-25-1) built a 7-2 lead in the
middle of the sixth before the Bison battled back.
“We just keep hanging in there,” Depew said.
“Both games were very similar in that their starting pitchers
were throwing very well but when we got to the bullpen we were
able to get some momentum and turn the game around.”
Buursma homered and John Avanzino singled to
start the bottom of the sixth, knocking out Navy starter Mitch
Harris. Austin Turban added a pinch-hit RBI single to drive in
Avanzino to make it a 7-4 contest.
Bucknell tied it with a three-run eighth.
Avanzino led off with a triple and Andrew Brouse followed with a
walk. Both came home on a double by Hirsch, who was sacrificed
to third by Rubbo and came home on a sacrifice fly by Ben Allen
to knot the score at 7-7.
Navy used a two-out rally to get on the board in
the top of the first. Thomas Hamilton singled into shallow right
and Michael Speciale sent a 3-2 pitch over the fence in right
center for his 10th home run and a 2-0 lead for the
The Mids added to their lead in the second as
Steven Soares drew a one-out walk, moved to third on a fly ball
single that the rightfielder lost in the sun and scored on a
sacrifice fly by Nick Driscoll to give Navy a 3-0 lead.
Navy added a run in the fourth as Kendall Bolt
drew a leadoff walk, stole second, advanced to third on a wild
pitch and scored on a groundout by Soares to make it 4-0.
The Bison cut the lead in half in the bottom of
the fourth. Brouse started the rally with a one-out single to
third. Hirsch had a hit-and-run triple to left center, his first
three-bagger of the season, to plate Brouse with the first run.
Hirsch came home on a sacrifice fly by Rubbo to make it a 4-2
Navy kept the offense going in the top of the
fifth. Renaldo Hollins drew a leadoff walk and moved to second
on a failed pickoff attempt. Mike Guadagnini reached on an
error, moving Hollins to third. Hamilton was hit by a pitch to
load the bases with no outs. Speciale hit a sacrifice fly to
left, and one out later, Jonathan Wright had a base hit up the
middle to push the lead to 6-2 and chase Bucknell starter Eric
The Mids added a run in the sixth as Hollins led
off with a double and scored on a base hit by Hamilton, which
broke the Patriot League record for hits in a season with 89.
Bucknell won its fourth Patriot League title and
will advance to its first NCAA Tournament since 2003.